How to Choose a Pillow, According to Science – 19 Factors to Consider

Nothing in the world beats a good night’s sleep. But a bad pillow can ruin that experience for you. How many times have you woken up in the morning with that crick in your neck? If you’re not using the right pillow, then plenty of times, right? When that happens, you feel groggy and unrested all day long.

So you can eliminate this discomfort from your life by purchasing the right kind of pillow. It’s important for the pillow to support your neck and head. And to make this happen, you need something that doesn’t lose all the comfortable fluffiness or deflate quickly.

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Here are 19 factors to consider when buying a pillow.

1. Know The Different Types Of Pillows

As I mentioned earlier, achieving a good night’s rest is not easy if your head and neck are not well supported. In that case, the market offers many excellent options to select from. Having an idea about the different kinds of pillows helps you get started along the process. And it also provides a basic understanding of the various possibilities available right in front of your eyes. (1)

Feather pillows: Feather is all about fluff, isn’t it? And what this fluff does is offer comfort, support, and softness. High-quality pillows contain feathers that are just like carbon fiber. And that means they’re pretty strong. The feathers have a highly curled yet small design to act as natural spring.

Down pillows: Nothing beats the down pillows when it comes to softness. Down is the part of the fluffy undercoat of a bird. In simple words, it’s feathers without the quills. A down pillow is supple, puffy, and soft. And that makes it one of the best luxurious pillows in the industry.

Memory foam pillows: You should stick with memory foam pillows if you’re looking for something that can adjust to your position throughout the night. Memory foam allows your head, neck, and shoulders to rest all night in the most natural position. And that means these pillows are self-adjusting.

However, based on certain studies, the chemical odor that memory foam pillows have might be harmful.  But there isn’t any definite study backing this description. If you’d like to be careful, using latex pillows may be a safer alternative. (2)

Latex pillows: Latex pillows are comparatively more breathable and snug. It’s a great solution for people who fall victim to hot flashes and hot sweats in the middle of the night. Another great benefit of latex pillows is that they offer excellent neck and shoulder support. They’re naturally hypoallergenic and dust mite resistant.

Based on one study, the contour and stuffing of a latex pillow can support the head and neck to reduce cervical stiffness and arm pain. It works better than other types of pillows to reduce a waking headache and shoulder pain in subjects. (3)

Shredded memory foam pillows: These are very similar to memory foam, but only the memory foam is shredded into tiny pieces for better breathability. The reason why one would opt for a shredded memory foam rather than a memory foam is because it’s more moldable.

These are way superior in both shape and volume, which doesn’t require constant fluffing and clumping. Some shredded memory foam pillows are hypoallergenic and dust mite resistant.

Polyester pillows: Polyester pillows are comparatively cheaper than memory or latex pillows. And for that reason, they’re easier to maintain, but they last for very short periods of time. Some studies show that a polyester pillow consists of certain chemical compounds that might raise some health concerns.

Microbead pillows: The beads are known as unexpanded polystyrene. And they offer hard support. So now you know what travel pillows are constructed with.

Buckwheat pillows: The name itself suggests that these types of pillows are plant-based and all-natural. The husk fillings are a part of buckwheat seeds. So it’s safe for me to add that buckwheat pillows also provide hard support.

Sleep apnea pillows: When sleeping with CPAP machines, you need the sleep apnea version of pillows. They have polyester fiber foam or fill. The pillow does an excellent job at accommodating the cords and tubes of CPAP machines.

Neck pillows: These are the highest-rated pillows as far as spine support is concerned. A neck pillow has the ability to support your neck and head most comfortably. And this keeps your spine positioned correctly while you’re sleeping.

Body pillows: A standard body pillow is at least 54 inches long. You can place it between the legs for lower back and hip support. Body pillows are a great option for those who like to snuggle in bed. Even pregnant women benefit from these kinds of pillows.

Lumbar pillows: Lumbar means lower back, right? The term is self-explanatory, isn’t it? So if you want a pillow to naturally relax your lower back, you know what to buy!

Wedge pillows: These come in a triangular design to support all the vulnerable parts of the body. Wedge pillows either have a polyester fiberfill or foam construction. And sometimes, it’s the combination of both.

A wedge pillow is suitable for people who like to read in bed. It elevates your feet, legs, and upper body to eliminate discomfort associated with acid reflux, varicose veins, and even pregnancy.

Another pillow that has become increasingly popular is the bamboo pillow.

2. Understanding Pillow Loft

Before I get into the more detailed aspects about pillows, it’s important for you to know what pillow loft is. It is the thickness or height of the pillow. So when you hear the word loft, know that it means pillow height.

Other words like “firm” and “plush” are also used for the same purpose. Now it’s time understand what a high-lofted plush option is. It implies that the pillow is high yet soft enough to sink your head into.

On the other hand, low-lofted firm means that the pillow has both a supportive and firm surface. This goes a long way in keeping your neck and head aligned.

Finding the right pillow also depends on the pillow height you prefer. The ideal height for your neck, head, and spine can be a little tricky to decipher. But it can be made simple by looking at the various sleep positions.

A relatively tall pillow height should be able to match your spine so your neck and shoulders remain firm. This also reduces tossing and turning. Sleeping on a tall pillow can create a horizontal spinal curve, which is the correct postural alignment to begin with.

Ideal for: Pillows with an increased height are ideal for most side sleepers.

A height that places the neck slightly in an elevated position, but not too much, creates the perfect “S” curve for curing back pain problems. This also relieves cranio-cervical pressure.

Ideal for: Pillows with a medium increase in height are ideal for back sleepers.

Flat pillows offer orthotic support for better motion transfers. It does support your head and neck. Plus, it’s good for correct spine alignment caused by injuries or lack of exercise.

Ideal for: Pillows that are appropriately low in height are ideal for stomach sleepers.

It’s important to remember that jumping to extreme ends such as too high or too low is not good for the muscles. Slight pillow elevation offers cervical relief and better spinal support. Multiple studies on various pillow heights have concluded that a medium increase in height can have a significant effect on sleep quality and cervical health. (13,14)

3. Consider Your Sleeping Style

When choosing a pillow, you have to keep this factor in mind. Your sleeping position plays a significant role in deciding what pillow is best for the natural movements of your body while you’re asleep. So let’s talk about that in this section. (2)

Side sleepers: For side sleepers, the head and neck should be equally supported while the spine should follow an ideal horizontal curve to avoid awkward bending. For side sleepers, a thicker density pillow with plenty of breathability is a must.

A high loft moves from a “nice to have” feature to a “must-have” if you prefer sleeping on the side. At such times, a high, firm pillow fills the gap between your shoulder and ear.

Also, you should opt for contoured or traditional latex or memory foam versions. These options support the head in a better manner without flattening out quickly.

Back sleepers: For someone who likes to sleep on his or her back, nothing beats the medium/low-lofted firm pillows. The next best option is a high-lofted plush pillow. These varieties keep your head optimally elevated and maintain the natural position of the neck.

Once you have sufficient support under your head, neck, and shoulders, your body muscles will feel more relaxed and less stressed.

Memory foam, shredded memory, polyester, and latex pillows are ideal for most back sleepers. These offer great support and are easily conformable.

Stomach sleepers: Compared to other sleep positions, sleeping on the stomach may put pressure on the back and neck. For that, a flat pillow that doesn’t strain the head and neck is essential.

Polyester and Buckwheat pillows are comparatively flat in shape so they’re ideal for most stomach sleepers.

Mixed sleepers: A mixed sleeper changes sleeping positions all night long. So to support these kinds of movements throughout the night, you need a synthetic pillow. But I would recommend getting a down pillow with a high-fill capacity.

4. Take Pillow Fillings Into Account

When you want to buy the most comfortable pillow for your needs and requirements, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Well, the answer should be pillow fillings. So let’s find out the different types of options you get to choose from.

Goose feather/down: What you can look forward to the most with feather and down fillings is a combination of luxury and softness. Pillows with such fillings shape well, feel airy and cool, and also last for a long time.

But you should know that feather is a comparatively more affordable option than down.

Memory foam: When you think of memory foam, you immediately assume that the experience will be incredibly comfortable. This comes in the form of pain relief and support. The material adjusts to the natural shape of the body quite easily.

On top of that, it’s durable too. But the only drawback here is that memory foam does not offer optimal air flow due to its relatively warm and dense quality.

Latex: Now, this is just like memory foam. The only difference is that latex is lighter with more breathability. Fillings of latex have a firm nature with a dust mite and mold resistant advantage. This means that people with allergies might fall in love with pillows that come with latex fillings. (4)

Synthetic: Polyester or synthetic versions are the most affordable choices to pick. And the best part about them is that they are suitable for many sleeping positions. But that doesn’t eliminate the fact that these pillows flatten quickly.

Microfiber: This is another popular option when it comes to fillings. The material is silky, soft, and airy. It offers optimal airflow and is just as comfortable as a down pillow. So what’s the problem here? It’s the high price tag of microfiber.

Cotton: Breathable, cool, and dust mite/mold resistant. These are the qualities you should expect with cotton fillings. But if durability is a major concern for you, then a combination of synthetic and cotton might be a better option.

5. Think About Your Size

The height of the person using the pillow plays an important role in determining the comfort level. In that sense, a six feet tall woman or man will have to opt for a different pillow than someone who’s five feet tall.

The majority of pillow manufacturing companies offer sizes now. These include king, queen, and standard or large, medium, and small. This enables you to choose accordingly. (5)

During the size selection process, just keep in mind that the pillow you opt for aligns well with your spine. The goal is to find something that supports the neutral position of your spine. So purchase a pillow that suits your sleeping needs and requirements.

6. Find Out The Thread Count

When buying pillows, look for either a “T” or “TC” on the package of the product. This denotes thread count. Allow me to make my point with an example. If it says 300TC or T300, it means that there are 300 vertical and horizontal threads per sq. inch of the pillow.

In general terms, the higher the value, the softer that pillow will feel. Here’s an important piece of information. Thread counts that fall between 400 and 200 are considered to be an ideal option. They do an excellent job at bringing tons of comfort into the picture.

But when dealing with a thread count over 400, you have to spend a huge sum of money.

So at such times, the best thing to do is figure out the ultimate purpose of the pillow. Are you planning on using it regularly on the bed? If yes, then a high thread count does sound like a great idea.

On the contrary, a low thread count like 130TC is apt for a pillow that you don’t use on a daily basis. These types of pillows have a different material construction. And more often than not, they are grey in color, as opposed to the other standard white versions.

But don’t let this lead you to believe that anything over 400 means superior comfort. Likewise, a low thread count (value between 400 and 200) doesn’t necessarily imply low quality or softness. It just means that a higher count is comparatively softer than its lower kin. Both can be equally comfortable, so choose wisely. (6)

7. Consider The Pillow’s Fluff Factor

A pillow should be fluffy enough to provide not only better cushioning but a long-lasting experience too. But let’s not forget about air circulation here. What I mean to say is that a fluffy pillow needs to allow air to pass through it. This is the kind of pillow that should win your vote.

A lifeless version, on the other hand, is one that’s flat and deflated. Such a pillow doesn’t have the ability to trap air any longer. Thus, the comfort and support factors get compromised.

The best way to test the fluffiness of any pillow is to fold it in half. If the pillow unfolds all by itself or when you hug it tight, you know it’s a grand slam. Otherwise, you’re better off looking for another fluffier pillow.

8. Selecting The Right Pillow Cover Fabric

So you know what your pillow is made up of, but what about its outermost fabric. A breathable pillow fabric will keep you well and away from perspiring and hot flashes. So you need a cover fabric that has far better breathability and ventilation than other fibers.

Your face comes in direct contact with the pillow cover fabric, so to protect your face you need something soft and cozy.

Cotton: Cotton fabric is the most common material for pillow covers. It offers a soft, breathable, and supple feeling against the skin. Plus, it’s easier to clean. The lightweight and cushiony feeling of cotton makes it adaptable and cool to sleep on.

The only downside to cotton cover fabrics is that they have a very limited shelf life. And if you’re looking to buy under a strict budget, cheaper cotton fabric covers shrink much faster than expensive ones.

Polyester: Polyester fabrics are more durable than cotton fabrics. Even after machine washing them, they retain their shape and contour without shrinking. The only advantage of using polyester fabrics is that they have a very long shelf life.

However, polyester is a man-made fiber which makes it prone to chemical compounds. They lack proper thermal regulation properties and aren’t as absorbent as cotton cover fabrics.

A recent study on the effects of polyester on the environment showed how polyester is an environmentally-damaging material. According to this study, it takes polyester 20 to 200 years to decompose. So buying polyester fabrics for your pillow may not be a good option. (8)

Flannel: Natural and breathable, flannel sheets might more common than pillow fabrics. But many pillow manufacturers are putting in more effort to have flannel pillow cover fabrics. It’s a woven cotton material that’s both conformable and absorbent to sleep on.

9. Test The Pillow Before Buying

Just like you need to test the fluffiness of the pillow, there are other factors that require your attention during the selection process. When buying something larger like a mattress, what do you do? As any other human, you lie down on the bed to see how comfortable and supportive it is for your body. So why should it be any different for choosing a pillow.

You can rest your head on different pillows for a minute or two to determine which one’s right for you. And if you don’t want to be that person, then I have another solution. If not at the store, then I’m sure you won’t hesitate to test the pillow at home. But do it before removing the product’s plastic wrap.

The signs to look out for are your neck leaning backward or forward. Any form of discomfort means getting another better pillow.

In this section, I would also like to add that pillow care plays a major role after you buy the product. So if you’re up for washing the pillow as recommended, it’s important that you go through the care guidelines. (7)

What you need to look for is whether the pillow is machine-washable or not. Some pillow brands don’t offer that option. Instead, they suggest dry cleaning. You will be quite surprised to know that a few types or brands of pillows have front-loading washing machine restrictions or they are only allowed to be subjected to spot-treating. So please make it a point to check that out before you decide what to purchase.

Pillows tend to last for many years if you wash them at least three to four times per year. You can also use pillow care products such as pillow protector to increase durability and keep them clean.

10. How To Find Out If The Pillow Supports Your Neck And Head

When at the sleep store, how can you tell if the pillow is going to be supportive enough for your head and neck? Don’t worry; you don’t need to lie down to figure that out. To determine if the pillow can contour to the shape of your body, all you have to do is follow the instructions discussed below.

  1. Just like you would lie down on the mattress, stand right next to the wall. If you prefer sleeping on your back, then gently push your back to the wall. In the case of side sleepers, your side should be against that wall. And stomach sleepers face the wall, right?
  2. The next step is to relax your head on the wall. This is when you’ll notice that the head and neck regions are not in line with the spine. And that’s where a pillow comes into play. The whole idea of the pillow is to fill the gap.
  3. So it’s time to place the pillow between the wall and your head. And then again notice your spine alignment along the neck all the way to your back. Is it bent or is it straight? Does the pillow and position feel comfortable or not? Do you think you’ll be able to spend as long as eight hours in such a position? (8)

When using the right kind of pillow, your neck and head will be straight and your spine comfortable. This means that all the three vulnerable spots of your body are not only aligned correctly but also well supported. However, if that’s not the case, keep looking for that perfect pillow.

11. Pillows For When And If You Snore

Taking your sleeping problems into consideration is necessary when buying a pillow. And if it’s snoring, then you have to do something about it before the habit starts to interfere with your partner’s sleep. In that case, you will be quite relieved to know that specialized pillows provide one of the best solutions to such an issue.

These types of pillows open your nasal passage and align your airways. What this does is help in breathing easily, which reduces snoring. When the airflow is better, it goes a long way in putting an end to casual snoring. And you achieve these results without buying any expensive equipment or undergoing surgery. (9)

But you should know that there isn’t a single pillow that guarantees “no snoring” experiences. Nevertheless, the options available on the market right now do make noticeable improvements. The specialized pillows meet individual needs while also alleviating or eliminating the habit of snoring entirely.

So let’s find out what these pillows are, shall we?

Wedge pillow: A wedge pillow aligns the spine and elevates the upper body. Such a position encourages the airways to open completely. On top of that, wedge pillows also contribute to getting rid of other health conditions such as acid reflux. If you know what I’m talking about, then you understand how it can mess with your sleep.

So it’s like killing two birds with one stone, isn’t it?

Contour pillow: If there are any pillows that have been subjected to clinical trials and tests for many years, these are it. Contour pillows have raised shoulder and center indentions. This particular structure keeps the head elevated in the most comfortable manner.

The pillow does an excellent job at cradling your natural position during the night. And it is considered to be an ideal option for people who have a mild snoring problem or sleep apnea.

It’s the wavy surface of the pillow that helps in keeping the airway open to let in enough oxygen throughout your sleeping period.

Latex foam pillow: Another ideal choice for moderate sleeping issues is latex foam pillows. They are comparatively firmer than their memory foam counterparts. And this is responsible for providing support that contours to the shape of your head and neck.

When dealing with latex foam versions, select those that come with a slight curve. Such a design maintains proper airway alignment while you’re sleeping.

And here’s the best advantage of latex foam pillows. Turning and tossing in bed is one of the reasons why your snoring problems tend to aggravate, right? So a latex foam pillow contributes to reducing all the turning and tossing, which keeps snoring in check.

CPAP pillow: In some cases, sleep apnea is a cause of snoring problems. So at such times, a doctor might recommend the use of oxygen masks. And to be able to sleep with the oxygen mask, you need a CPAP pillow.

These kinds of pillows are designed specifically to accommodate the useful equipment. They offer supreme comfort all night long even without you having to worry about drifting off to sleep.

12. Buying A Hypoallergenic Pillow

We all know that choosing the right kind of pillow results in getting better quality and comfortable sleep at night. But not many of us know that the hypoallergenic types of pillows greatly impact not only your sleep but also your physical health when dealing with allergies. (10)

When I hear the word “hypoallergenic” I immediately think about dust mites. They cause respiratory allergies in over 20 million people all across the world. So at such times, the majority of them opt for hypoallergenic pillows, bedding, and mattresses.

But this doesn’t imply that you need to suffer from an allergy to buy the hypoallergenic kind of pillow. It seems like a healthy choice even when you want to avoid the possibility of dust mites wreaking havoc.

These annoying microscopic pests leave their residue on pillows, and that constitutes as the primary cause of your allergy. So in these situations, a hypoallergenic pillow keeps the area free from all types of allergens left by dust mites.

Another significant benefit of hypoallergenic pillows comes in the form of an antimicrobial nature. When sleeping, you don’t want to be thinking about anything but sleep, let alone microbes.

The thing about microbes is that they lead to chronic and temporary illnesses. No wonder it’s advisable to replace normal pillows once every six months to a year. But you don’t have to do something like this if you have a hypoallergenic pillow.

On the downside, just because the pillow has hypoallergenic properties doesn’t mean that it will wipe out the possibility of all allergens. Instead, what these pillows do is minimize the chances of the allergens giving rise to an allergic reaction.

It’s the quality of your pillow that also matters as far as allergens are concerned. In that context, you should make it a point to buy top quality pillows. The brand you select should have a trustworthy reputation. Otherwise, the protection factor takes a major hit.

And last but not the least; don’t forget about the cover of the pillow. It constitutes as the second layer of defense. Sleeping or resting on a hypoallergenic pillow and cover is always a better idea for both asthma and allergy sufferers. So keep that in mind if you don’t want your allergies to mess with your sleep.

13. Pillows To Reduce Back And Neck Pain

Sleep is the most basic need, wouldn’t you agree? A good night’s rest rejuvenates and refreshes our mind, senses, and body. On the contrary, bad sleep can cause unimaginable pain and discomfort in the morning. And more often than not, this comes in the form of back and neck pain.

Your pillow might be the leading cause of those miserable mornings. So it’s important to buy one that doesn’t lead to such tragedies. The goal of any pillow should be to conform to your body, thus providing excellent support without pressure. Also, it ensures that the weight of the body is spread across the spine evenly. (11)

Now that I’m talking about your sleeping position, let me get into the details below. This will give you a better understanding of how a pillow reduces back and neck pain for all types of sleepers.

Our spine has an “S” curve, isn’t that right? And it’s this natural structure of the back and neck that a pillow is supposed to support. When that doesn’t happen, it leads to misalignment. And this can cause the connective tissues and muscles to become sore due to cramps. So now you know why you wake up with pain and aches in the morning.

The aim is to keep the spine and head aligned correctly. This means that the head should be resting along the midline between the shoulders, where the neck and head are straight.

If you’re a back sleeper, the pillow you pick should offer optimal support to the shoulders, head, and neck. And this it does by maintaining the natural position of your spine curve.

When the pillow you’re using is thin, it might push your head backwards. This causes the spine curve to increase, which leads to discomfort and pain. On the contrary, when your pillow is a tad too thick, your head leans forward in a flexed position. So at such times, your chin tilts and strains your neck.

This means you need to buy a pillow that cradles the neck region in the most comfortable manner. You can also try placing your pillow under your knees to reduce spine strain if you can’t get enough of sleeping on the back.

If you’re a side sleeper, you need a pillow that supports your neck and head in such a position so as to keep the spine horizontally straight. The ultimate goal of such a pillow is to fill the gap between your ear and shoulder. This prevents the awkward bending of the neck.

Another valuable piece of advice for side sleepers; try sleeping with your pillow between your knees. What this does is help in improving spine alignment.

If you’re a stomach sleeper, it means the chances of experiencing back and neck pain are highly likely. And why is that? That’s because this particular sleeping position makes the process of maintaining the natural curve of your spine difficult. So it’s advisable to switch to another position. (12)

But if that doesn’t seem like something you can or want to do, then here’s another solution. Stomach sleepers should not use pillows that offer head support. To support such a position, you need to place your pillow under your hips. What this does is eliminate the stress that your lower back experiences due to sleeping like that.

You can also add another pillow under your ankles for extra cushioning. 

14. Down vs Feathered Pillows

There’s a clear distinction between a down and a feathered pillow. Not many people know about this, but considering these options before buying might help you relieve neck and back strain. The kind of pillow you buy depends on the firmness, softness, and volume factors. And this depends on whether you choose to buy either a down or a feathered pillow. (9)

Down pillow: A down pillow is characterized by a collection of fibers either from a duck, goose, or a swan. These fibers are located near the chest area and sometimes even under the coating of the bird.

  • The advantages of using a down pillow are as follows:
  • They have excellent insulating properties.
  • They’re softer than feathered pillows.
  • They are better for side and back sleepers.
Feathered pillow: A feathered pillow comes, as the name suggests, from the wings and back region of the goose or duck. It offers a softer and fluffier texture than down pillows with incredible conformable abilities. Also, feathered pillows are flat, unlike down pillows.

The advantages of using a feathered pillow are as follows:

  • They’re heavier than down pillows which makes them more durable.
  • They are able to keep their shape for a long time.
  • They are better for stomach sleepers.

15. Do You Need A Special Pillow?

Specials pillows are specifically designed with a purpose in mind. They’re ideal for people with a certain kind of medical condition such as neck arthritis, spinal problem, and respiratory problems such as snoring. These are also known as specialty medical pillows.

Having the right specialty medical pillow by your side to keep your upper body aligned is important. It brings about counterbalancing problems if you don’t pay attention to the kind of pillow you buy. That said, here are some different kinds of medical pillows that you can look up before choosing a pillow.

Positional pillow: If you’ve ever heard about sleep apnea, which is a breathing disorder, you must have seen or heard of a positional pillow. Oftentimes, travelers buy positional pillows to reduce snoring on the plane. It’s a lowercase “n” shaped pillow that helps eliminate tossing and turning when lying down.

Cervical pillow: People with cervical neck problems opt for a cervical pillow. It offers incredible neck support as the lower part of the pillow offers an extra firm foam. It is best used for reducing neck pain, stiffness, and headaches. (10)

Anti-snoring pillow: Anti-snore pillows position the head to open the airways. To reduce snoring, you need to keep your chin slightly elevated from the chest. So this promotes proper breathing and less excessive relaxation of the airways. (11)

Oxygen pillow: Oxygen pillows are designed for proper air circulation between the top and interior layers. This helps you breathe more easily and relieve respiratory stress for a full night’s rest. People with severe breathing problems may benefit from oxygen pillows. They position the head and neck in a neutral position. Most oxygen pillows are made up of latex and cotton material. (12)

Pregnancy pillow: Pregnancy pillows are usually of body size. This means you can wrap the pillow around your body or use it as back, neck, spine, hips, and knee support. The pregnancy pillow is also known as a full-length pillow that run precisely along the length of your body. They are way more flexible than standard body-length pillows.

16. How Much To Spend On Pillows

I saved this section for the last because you need to look beyond just the price of the pillow. A cheap pillow might not last as long as a relatively more expensive one. More often than not, the former loses firmness, which eliminates the support factor. And your neck and head will be the first ones to notice this, not in a pleasant or painless way.

So don’t expect anything short of undisturbed sleep when buying a cheap pillow. But when opting for something that’s slightly on the costlier side, you might be making a better decision. However, this stands true only if the pillow provides maximum support to your head and neck.

The best way to determine this is to rest your head on that pillow and maintain the position for a while. During this time, if your neck and head feel comfortable, then you can put an end to the search for your dream pillow.

17. Is The Pillow Easy To Clean

Most pillows are machine washable, but knowing the proper washing labels on them before buying is essential. Based on a consumer report, washing your pillows twice a year, unless they’re “dry clean” only is a good way to keep bacteria and germs away for good.

Based on the type of pillows available on the market, you can know how easy they are to clean and maintain for a long time. (15)

Polyester pillows: Most polyester pillows can be washed in warm water. You can liquid soap, and not detergent, for cleaning the polyester filling. While machine drying on low to medium-heat with efficient dryer balls help fluff them back into shape.

Memory foam pillows: Memory foam pillows are not machine washable. But they are ways to clean a memory foam pillow without getting it completely wet. (16)

Latex pillows: Just like memory pillows, latex pillows are not machine washable. Nor can you soak them in water or expose them to direct sunlight. Latex pillows are made up of naturally light components that do not work well with either water or sunlight. So stretching or scrunching them to get rid of dirt would make matters worse.

That said, to maintain the pillow’s expert hypoallergenic and dust mite resistant quality, hand washing latex pillows is the correct way.

Down or feathered pillows: Using a mild washing detergent or laundry detergent is good enough for down or feather pillows. To avoid clumping, it’s better to use very little liquid detergent for a delicate and thorough wash. But make sure the pillow is dry before you use it as it might cause mildew and odor.

18. Understanding Pillow Placement

This is something most of us forget to consider. Pillow placement is when you use a pillow for proper support, but not under your head and neck. It’s when you use it to keep under your lower back or in-between your knees for support.

While there are many sleep positions such as stomach, back, and side, there are many who reap the benefits of using two pillows instead of one. (18)
Here’s what you should know about pillow placement:

Placing pillows under knees: For side sleepers, placing a comfortable pillow beneath both knees can reduce back and cervical spine strain. According to University of Rochester Medical Center, a medium firm pillow under the knees can prevent spinal alignment problems. Plus, it helps alleviate increased pressure off the hips and lower back.

Placing pillows under the back: For people most likely to experience back pain, putting a soft, but firm pillow under the lower back can reduce back pain. This is especially important for stomach sleepers as sleeping on your stomach might cause minor back pain. So if you place a pillow under your waist, near your lower back, you might be able to sleep more comfortably. (19)

Placing pillows under arms: This is to prevent severe fractures, stiffness, and pressure ulcers. Placing the pillow under each arm can also benefit postural ability and support the natural curve of the body. For example, resting the top arm on a firm pillow while having the elbow slightly bent is the most ideal sleeping position for side sleepers. (20)

Placing a pillow between the legs: If you’re a side sleeper, sleeping with your knees slightly bent and a pillow between the legs is the ideal sleeping position for cure back pain. It also prevents your thighs or upper leg from pulling on your cervical spine. This leads to an awkward, and sometimes painful, sleeping position. (21)

19. Is It Time To Replace Your Pillow

Pillows are prone to bacterial formation sooner than you think. So before you read more about choosing a pillow, I think you will benefit a great deal after knowing what causes pillows to damage so easily in the first place.

Because you’re face touches the pillow night after night for a good 6-8 hours, there is a possibility that oil and dead skin cells accumulate on the top layer of the pillow. This might lead to other skin problems such as acne, dryness, and rashes.

More importantly, dust mites and dirt are another contributive agents of skin problems. So know when and how to determine these problems is critical. According to one report, the maximum amount of dust mites can be found on the crevices of any pillow. They’re invisible, but they’re there.

Excessive dust mite formation can cause minor allergies, sneezing, coughing, and a runny nose. Sometimes it can also lead to eye problems. So getting your pillow tested for dust mites on a regular basis is essential.

According to one study, pillows attract thousand spores of fungus, which can give rise to many health concerns including asthma, headaches, neck pain, etc.

A cool pillow is a healthy pillow. And sleeping in a cool environment ensures a full night’s rest. Most pillows come with expert cooling properties and breathability. This make sure you don’t feel overheated in the middle of night, especially when you experience hot sweats or hot flashes. If your pillow lacks proper air circulation due to irritants and dust mite presence, it’s time dump it.

Irritants and dust mites drain the pillow of its moisture absorbing properties. Plus, they also curb its hypoallergenic strengths.

So you definitely need to buy a new pillow if you find yourself sweating incessantly, on most nights. This also holds true if you find sweat stains on your pillow.  

Another great sign is when you are compelled to fluff your pillows incessantly every morning after waking up and every night before sleeping. This can mean the foam or filling of your pillow is lumpy and flat. That’s when you know you have to replace your pillows right away!


The best part about pillows is that they come in various sizes and shapes. Even the firmness of the pillows is something that you can choose from a broad range of options. So what does that tell you? It means that a pillow perfect for someone else might not be suitable for your sleeping positions or preferences.

With that in mind, the best advice that I can give you is to test the pillow before buying it. And ask yourself these questions:

  • Does the pillow feel comfortable? Or is it too firm or too soft?
  • Does the pillow offer enough neck and head support for correct spine alignment?
  • Do you think you can spend as many as eight hours on that pillow?